Medicaid recipient’s family 'shocked' by $80K bill

When a medicaid recipient’s family was "shocked" after receiving an $80,000 bill, they decided to get Gephardt. (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV — SALT LAKE CITY) — Coreen McCuistion says her mom, Debra, lived very frugally. Later in life, Debra signed up for Medicaid for health insurance. Coreen says her mom knew her estate would have to pay back the healthcare she used after her death, so Debra was very careful about how often she went to the doctor.

"She made it a point not to go to the doctor, hardly ever," Coreen said. “She wanted to save money."

Coreen's mom used $28,838.58 in medical services while on Medicaid. But after Debra passed away, Coreen got bills demanding $80,004.45, nearly three times the amount of money it cost for Debra's medical care.

In Utah, Medicaid is managed by the Utah Department of Health. The department's deputy director, Nate Checketts, said Medicaid works like any other health insurance company — folks pay premiums whether they use the services or not. The only difference is the premiums are collected from the estate after the beneficiary dies.

Medicaid recipients are informed in a brochure before they enroll that premiums will be collected postmortem. Recipients do not receive monthly statements letting them know how much of a balance has been accrued, but that the department will share that information if a recipient specifically asks, Checketts said.

Because of Debra’s situation, the state is making changes to be more transparent going forward, he said.

"We'll provide some additional detail on the monthly payments that we make," he said.

Coreen said she is glad others may avoid the sticker shock that hit her, but she's still left holding the bag to pay the more than $80,000 bill. She says she will likely have to sell the home where she grew up — and currently lives with her daughter — that was left to her by her mother.

"This is what [my mom] wanted,” Coreen said through tears. “She wanted this home to stay in the family."

Utah state records show there are about 30,000 adults on Medicaid who will have to pay the state back after their death for medical services, whether the services were used or not.

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